The Art of Book Design: The Violet Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Violet Fairy Book. Illustrated by H.H. Ford. London, New York, Longmans, Green, 1906.

Andrew Lang published a series of 12 Fairy Books, all identified by colour. The books were illustrated by H. J. Ford, and they’re filled with detailed black and white line drawings, plus a series of coloured plates. These books are amongst my favourite in the Fairy Tale genre and I’ve been saving them for a special occasion. I think the pandemic qualifies, and so for the next 12 weeks, Children’s Book Saturdays will feature the Andrew Lang series. We begin with the Violet Fairy Book, and it was difficult to choose which illustrations to share because there are so many that I like. I”ve attached all of the colour plates, plus many line drawings that include dogs, cats, snakes, lions, bears, boars, horses, dragons, plus a mermaid, because I know at least one mermaid fan out there. If you’d like to see the entire book, you can check it out at the link to The Internet Archive here and below. During the pandemic, The Internet Archive is allowing all their on-loan books out with no waiting lists, so now is the time to check them out. It’s easy to register (find a book you want, click the “borrow” button and the site will ask for your email – that’s all)  and they have millions of things you can check out all for free. Any book that isn’t offered for loan can be read at the site. The site also carries music, magazines and artwork. There’s a lot of good stuff for adults and children. Enjoy!

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Jack’s Walk

The Hollow, Twisted Tree ©voyager, all rights reserved

“Mommy… Mommy,” I heard Jack call out excitedly from somewhere up ahead. Soon I saw him exit the forest and do a quick trot toward me on the trail. All of this was quite surprising because Jack seldom gets excited, and he doesn’t do the quick trot anymore, so something was up.
“What is it, Bubba?” I asked as he got nearer.
“Oma Troutchen is missing, and the fairies need our help.”
“Why do the fairies need our help?”
“They need my nose, and you have to drive,” Jack said, “Gnorman will explain it. He wants to talk to you.”
“Is Gnorman a fairy?” I asked, getting excited at the thought of finally meeting one of Jack’s fairy friends.
“Silly Mummy. Gnorman isn’t a fairy. Gnorman is a Gnome. Over here,” Jack said, walking back into the woods and stopping beside a tall, twisted tree stump.
I approached carefully and looked around, but I didn’t see anyone except for Jack.
“Where is he, Jack?”
“Up here, you Ninny, and put that camera away,” I heard a gruff voice say, but I still didn’t see anyone.
“Here, in the tree,” and sure enough there he was, a small wizened creature with a bushy white beard wearing a pointed red cap, standing inside the hollowed-out tree.
“Why must I put the camera away,” I asked.
“Because I told you to. Now, are you going to keep asking silly questions, or are you going to listen?” Gnorman said.
“I’m listening, but I’d like to take your photo, please,” I said as politely as I could.
“Maybe later. Right now, we’s got a lost fairy, and we needs Jack to help us find her. And Jack says he needs you to help him, so we’s decided to take a chance and asks you’s fur a bit of human help.”
“I’ll help however I can,” I said, wondering what on earth I could do to help find a fairy.
“It’s Oma Troutchen we’s lost. She was out collecting acorn caps with the school kids yesterday when young Freddy Fox wandered in and started sniffing around, and somehow Oma got caught up in his tail, and the silly fool ran off with her hanging there, and he’s done went and lost her.”
“That’s terrible.” I said, “Do you have any idea where she might be?”
“That’s the trouble. Freddy says that he thinks he lost her around Punkydoodles corner, but that’s a long way from here, and the fairies don’t have their wings yet to go looking for her. The birds is out looking for her, but they haven’t found her yet, and Oma ain’t gonna do well on her own for long.”
“Why won’t Oma do well? And why don’t the fairies have their wings?”
“Great grasshoppers! You sure do ask a lot of questions.” Gnorman said.
“Everyone knows that Fairies shed their wings in the fall and grow them back in the spring, so’s it’s easier for them to live underground in the winter. As for Oma, she’s very old and has the forgetting disease. Everyone in the forest is out looking for her. Even them drunken Imps are helping, but Freddy took her too far, and it’s hard to find a fairy who ain’t got her wings.” Gnorman was getting upset. “, where’s that stupid fox. He was supposed to meet us here to give Jack a bit more knowing about where they went. Hrmph! You just can’t trust a fox.”
“if you can’t trust a fox, how do we know he’ll tell us the truth?” I asked.
“‘Cause he’s got the whole durn forest mad at him and even a fox is smart enough to know you don’t mess with the fairies.”
“Everyone loves Oma Troutchen, Mummy,” Jack spoke up. “She’s been living in this forest for a long, long time and she’s friends with everyone. She was the first fairy I met, and she tells the best stories. I love her, too.” Jack sighed heavily, and I could see his eyes misting over.
“Alright, Gnorman. Jack, can you find the trail without waiting for this fox to turn up?”
“I can find fox trails, but I can’t be sure which one belongs to Freddy,” Jack said sadly.
“Well, then, I guess we’d better wait to see if Freddy turns up,” I said, sitting down on a log to wait.
“Thar’s a good girl,” Gnorman growled. “Now, I’ll let ya take one photo, but not too close. You humans always seems to make us Gnomes look silly.”
“Well, you do look a bit silly up in that tree,” I said.
“I climbed up here to make it easier for you, young lady, there’s nothing silly about that.” Gnorman smiled for the first time.
“Thanks,” I said, smiling back at him. “I appreciate your effort. And it’s nice to be called ‘young lady,’ no one calls me that anymore.”
“Well, you don’t look a day over a hundred to me,” Gnorman said merrily, and while I was letting that remark sink in, he quietly said, “Thanks to ya, fur helping us,” and then he blew me a kiss.
I reached for my camera and snapped a quick photo before Gnorman changed his mind.

Jack lay down beside me and placed his head heavily on my foot. I could see he was tired, and I stroked his back, hoping he would take a power nap.
And so we waited, hoping Freddy Fox would turn up soon.

Gnorman, ©voyager, all rights reserved

The Art of Book Design: The Springtime of Life, poems of childhood

Algernon Charles Swinburn. Springtide of Life. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott: London, W. Heinemann, 1918.

Today’s children’s book is a collection of poetry dedicated to the early life of children by Algernon Swinburn. It was published posthumously, as a collection according to the author’s wishes and was illustrated by one of the era’s most prolific and respected artists, Arthur Rackham. I’ve included all the full-page colour plates, but the book also contains a wealth of line drawings of chubby cherubs and well-fed babies, a minimum of one per poem. I’m very fond of Rackham’s artwork and I hope it brings some pleasure to your day. [Read more…]

Tales from the Loop!

Simon Stålenhag was featured by Caine back in 2016, and there is some interesting news out: a TV series based on his Tales from the Loop is coming out April 3! I’m a little bit excited because I had no idea this was in the works, and also I just bought his book The Electric State. Soundtrack composed by Philip Glass and Paul Leonard-Morgan.

Here’s the trailer, it looks suitably unfathomable and weird and slightly creepy to me:

Looking forward to this very much!

 

Jack’s Walk

The moss is sprouting! ©voyager, all rights reserved

Over the winter, Jack has been walking on the trail beside me, but today he kept wandering into the forest, and even though there’s still plenty of clean snow on the ground, Jack has a knack for finding the messy places.

“Your feet are all muddy, Little Buddy,” I called out as he ambled toward me.

“I Know Mommy, isn’t it wonderful. I love the way mud feels when it squishes between your toes, don’t you?” he replied as he kept walking past me and into the trees again.

“Toe squishing is fun, Jack, but I prefer to do it when the air is warm, and the mud is just a bit cool, not icy cold like today… Hey, where are you going? I thought we could walk together,” but he was already gone, and I was left talking to myself. When I finally found him around the next bend, I pointedly asked why he kept wandering off.

“The forest folk are awake, Mommy! I’m just going around saying hi.” Jack’s face was gleaming with delight, and his tail was sailing high and waving happily.

“That’s nice, Bubba. How are things in the wee world?”

“Busy. The plants are all waking up early, and it’s too soon for some of them, and the farmers and voles can’t manage it all, so everyone is pitching in. Mrs. Noyless said that even the governors are helping to tickle roots. Oh, there’s Chitchat Charly, Mommy. I’ll catch-up. Bye,” and he was off again, leaving me with a few points to ponder and knowing that Jack would be reticent to tell me more.

I’m going to have to find a way to earn the trust of the little folk. They’ve been watching me for 16 years, so they must know that I’m friendly and kind. Maybe there’s something that I can do to be of service to them. Maybe there’s something they want or need that I can bring them. Maybe, it’s going to be an interesting spring.

 

 

The Art of Book Design: The Fairy Housekeepers

Norma Bright Carson. The Fairy Housekeepers. Illustrations by Hazeltine Fewsmith. Boston, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard co., 1917.

I fell in love with this book! There is only 1 coloured illustration in it, however, the plain drawings are charming and delightful and entirely typical of the Art Nouveau Period. I’ve included all of the full-page illustrations, plus a few others, but if you get a chance I encourage you to check out the entire book. (The address is at the end) There are small illustrations on most pages and the story is a sweet look at how the fairies work as the seasons progress.

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The Art of Book Design: Sneewittchen (Snow White)

Grimm, Jakob / Grimm, Wilhelm: Sneewittchen / [Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm.] Gezeichnet von Franz Jüttner. – (Scholz’ Künstler-Bilderbücher ; 6). Mainz 1905. Scholz.

The first Saturday of December could belong to none other than the original frozen princess, Snow White. And I found her in her native German and well before Walt Disney put his big cartoon hands around her tiny little waist. The Brothers Grimm first told the tale of Snow White in 1812 as part of a collection of European folk stories. No-one is sure of its provenance, but according to a scholar from Lohr, Bavaria, there is evidence to suggest that Snow White is derived from the true story of Maria Sophia VonErthal. (via ancient origins.net/myths)

According to a study group in Lohr, Bavaria, Snow White is based on Maria Sophia von Erthal, born on 15 June, 1729 in Lohr am Main, Bavaria. She was the daughter of 18 th century landowner, Prince Philipp Christoph von Erthal and his wife, Baroness von Bettendorff.
After the death of the Baroness, Prince Philipp went onto marry Claudia Elisabeth Maria von Venningen, Countess of Reichenstein, who was said to dislike her stepchildren. The castle where they lived, now a museum, was home to a ‘talking mirror’, an acoustical toy that could speak (now housed in the Spessart Museum). The mirror, constructed in 1720 by the Mirror Manufacture of the Electorate of Mainz in Lohr, had been in the house during the time that Maria’s stepmother lived there.

The dwarfs in Maria’s story are also linked to a mining town, Bieber, located just west of Lohr and set among seven mountains. The smallest tunnels could only be accessed by very short miners, who often wore bright hoods, as the dwarfs have frequently been depicted over the years.
The Lohr study group maintain that the glass coffin may be linked to the region’s famous glassworks, while the poisoned apple, may be associated with the deadly nightshade poison that grows in abundance in Lohr.

A German historian has also postulated that it may be the true story of Margarete VonWaldeck. (via ancient origins.net/myths)

According to Sander, the character of Snow White was based on the life of Margarete von Waldeck, a German countess born to Philip IV in 1533. At the age of 16, Margarete was forced by her stepmother, Katharina of Hatzfeld to move away to Wildungen in Brussels. There, Margarete fell in love with a prince who would later become Phillip II of Spain.
Margarete’s father and stepmother disapproved of the relationship as it was ‘politically inconvenient’. Margarete mysteriously died at the age of 21, apparently having been poisoned. Historical accounts point to the King of Spain, who opposing the romance, may have dispatched Spanish agents to murder Margarete.
So what about the seven dwarfs? Margarete’s father owned several copper mines that employed children as quasi-slaves. The poor conditions caused many to die at a young age, but those that survived had severely stunted growth and deformed limbs from malnutrition and the hard physical labour. As a result, they were often referred to as the ‘poor dwarfs’.

Whether true or not, the story has persisted into modern times thanks to Walt Disney and his 1937 classic telling of the tale. I’ve included the artwork done by Franz Juttner, a German artist, in 1905 for the Sneewittchen book pictured above.

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The Art of Book Design: The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book

Walter Crane. The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, containing the Sleeping Beauty, The Baby’s Own Alphabet and Bluebeard. New York, Dodd, Mead and Co., 1911.

Sleeping Beauty is an old fairy tale that has had many incarnations. One of the best known, is this version by the prolific Children’s Book Illustrator, Walter Crane. Crane is an interesting artist who studied under William Morris, one of the founders and great artists of the Arts and Crafts movement. Crane is known for some fine art pieces, but his contributions to the nursery book arts are legendary, during its heyday at the end of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. This edition also has Bluebeard’s Story and Baby’s Own Alphabet. I’ve included all the plates for Sleeping Beauty, but only the first plates of the other 2 stories. The last plate of Sleeping Beauty is my favourite – I think she looks rather stunned to find herself so suddenly awake and rapidly married. If you’re interested you can see the entire book at the Internet Archive, where you can always read the whole book.

via: The Internet Archive [Read more…]

The Art of Book Design: The Now-A-Days Fairy Book

Anna Alice Chapin. Illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith. The Now-A-Days Fairy Book. New York, Dodd Mead Company, 1911.

The fairy book this week is a short one with only 2 illustrations, but the story is charming and the artwork is sweet. I’m in love with the picture of the teddy bears, but the monkey is pretty cute, too. Enjoy.

The Now-A-Days Fairy Book, page 38.

The Now-A-Days Fairy Book, page 68.

The Art of Book Design: The Absent Minded Fairy

Margaret Vandegrift. Illustrated by E.B. Bensell. The Absent Minded Fairy. Philadelphia, Ketterlinus Printing House, 1884.

The digital scans of this book contain a bit of extra love. Many of the pages have been hand-coloured in crayon to add a flourish to the original drawings, and I find them utterly charming. My favourite is page 19 with the elephant up a tree. The artwork is Victorian in flavour and the story itself is sweet and well told. I’ve included the first page that is without artwork because the opening sentence is delightful and sets the tone for all that follows. You’ll find all of the full-sized plates below the fold. Enjoy.

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The Art of Book Design: The Cat and The Mouse: A Book of Persian Fairy Tales

Hartwell James. The Cat and The Mouse: A Book of Persian Fairy Tales. Illustrated by John R. Neill. Philadelphia, Henry Altemus Company, 1906.

I was a cat person long before I was a dog person and it’s still cat week (which I didn’t announce) so this seems like a good fairy tale choice. The book is interesting because it contains artwork from 2 different sources. The frontispiece and title story The Cat and The Mouse are illustrated by an unnamed traditional Persian artist and the remainder of the book is illustrated by John R. Neill, who is famously known for illustrating the stories of Oz.

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